Middle School

13 – School Dance

Eighth grade was coming to an end. Oh, not for a few weeks yet, but the atmosphere around school was already changing. We could all feel this special excitement that told us what we’d known for the past three years was about over. One part of our lives ending, another about to begin. We’d all be in high school next year. None of us felt like little kids, but going into ninth grade, entering high school, we’d leave our comfort zone and knew we wouldn’t be allowed any of the perks we got as eighth graders at the top of the middle school pecking order. It was scary, and exciting, and terrible, and something we eagerly anticipated, all at once. High school.

The teachers didn’t seem affected by the changing atmosphere. It was almost as if they couldn’t feel it. Well, they were old. Maybe they couldn’t.

I hadn’t shown my coming out story to my parents. Chad could tease me all he wanted to. They’d get ideas I didn’t want them having. So I didn’t show it to them.

The last dance of the school year was coming up. What that meant in practical terms was, I was getting bugged by Brittany. Big time.

“Marc, we’re going to the dance together, aren’t we?” She was sitting next to me at lunch. Mario had stopped trying to steal Tom’s milk to listen. He enjoyed my conversations with Brittany a whole lot more than I did.

“I’m not sure, Brittany. I think my parents are going out of town that weekend and taking me with them.”

“Are you sure?”

“Well, not really, but I think so. The thing is, it would be awful for you to plan on me taking you and buy a dress and go to all that expense and effort, and then have it turn out I couldn’t go.”

She didn’t like that at all and her face showed it. “But, you’d know, wouldn’t you? Beforehand? How could it be a last minute thing?”

As I was making this all up on the fly, I wished she’d stop asking all these questions. “We’re supposed to go visit my aunt. She’s in the hospital with a ruptured spleen, but she’s scheduled to get out right about then, after the surgery and all, and we’re supposed to stay with her a couple days, and then my mom will stay and Dad and I will come back, but they want me there to help with the lifting. She’s kind of fat, and I’m stronger than my mom.”

I’ve heard that when you lie, it’s best to keep it simple. Tell my mouth that. It seemed to have developed a case of explosive diarrhea all of a sudden.

“So when will you know?”

“Not till the last minute. What you should probably do is find another date, or else just go doe.” I made that up, because going stag sounded like something only a boy could do, sort of like going commando. I thought she might complain, or laugh, but she didn’t respond at all. I was never sure Brittany was listening when I talked to her. She was one of those girls that seemed to spend the time when she wasn’t talking figuring out what to say next when she was. “That’s what I’m planning to do, if it turns out I can go. Not doe, but stag. Anyway, Brittany, if I do go, I’ll be sure to dance with you. A couple of times at least.”

She looked at me hard then. I probably shouldn’t have added that last bit.

The thing was, she’d become a real annoyance to me. I was more in love with Chad all the time, and while it had been fun, learning about two-person sex with her, I didn’t want to do any more of it. With her at least. As good as her mouth had felt on, well, on me I guess, I didn’t want it there anymore. If there was going to be a mouth, and I sure hoped there would be, I wanted it to be Chad’s.

Oh, it never would be, I was sure of that. He was totally nice, and he was my best friend, but he wasn’t gay. He’d never showed me anything to make me think he was, and if he had been, I’d have known. He wasn’t.

It’s tough, idolizing your best friend, loving him, spending so much time with him, and not being able to go that next step with him. I don’t really mean sex. I mean the next step where he loved me as much as I loved him. That’s what I wanted. But I was sure lots of other boys who thought they were gay—OK, were pretty sure they were gay—were in the same boat I was. They were surviving, and I was too.

“But I wanted to go with you, Marc! I wanted to go someplace afterwards. Maybe my house again. I wanted to do what we did again. I love touching you, and those other things we did. There’s other stuff I want to try, too.”

I was looking at Brittany, then at Mario, then back at Brittany. Brittany’s face was filled with, well, I was all new to this, but in the reading I’d done, sometimes I’d come upon something about a person whose eyes were filled with lust. And before you ask what kind of books I’d been reading, I’m a normal 13-year-old, so get off it! But, I’d always wondered exactly what that looked like, that lust stuff, and I think that’s what I was looking at with Brittany. Anyway, she was looking at me with lust, and Mario was looking shocked and excited and happy and amazed all at once, and I thought if we had a fire drill right then, he might be the last to get in line.

Mario’s eyes had opened so wide I thought his eyeballs might fall out. At least she hadn’t said that as loudly as she said most things. People two tables away weren’t turning to look. Our table had sure taken notice, however.

“Brittany! Keep it down! Jeeze! And thanks, I liked it with you, too.” I practically was whispering.

“So why don’t you come over before the dance? While you’re still here?”

“Um, are you still watching that TV show?”

“No, but I rented some DVDs. I had my friend’s older sister get them. I want to try some of that stuff with you.” Her eyes were shining.

We were both talking softly, she somewhat, me very. She was saying things that Mario and Tom were listening to with their jaws dropping.

Seeing that, I suddenly got an idea. Mario was cute, but shy enough he’d never really dated. I assumed he was straight and horny just like everyone else. And I knew Brittany was horny. Way horny. It was probably a match made in heaven.

Of course, Mario was even smaller than I was, and Brittany, well, I’ve already described her. She wasn’t huge. But she was big. They’d make an odd couple. The thing is, however, on a bed how tall you were didn’t seem to make much difference, and with Brittany, I was sure there’d be a bed involved rather quickly.

I made a note to myself to talk to Mario as soon as I could. Well before the dance.

oo))((oo

I was wearing a suit. Well, a sports jacket, a long-sleeved shirt and tie, and a pair of dress pants. Shined shoes, too, not the sneakers I generally wore. My parents bought this stuff for me and I generally outgrew it before I’d worn it more than once or twice. They were happy to see me wear it. I’d have rather gone in jeans and a tee shirt.

This wasn’t a prom or anything like that, just the last dance of the year, and we’d been told to dress up or they wouldn’t let us in.

The gym was fairly dark, they were serving punch, and the place was packed. I was standing next to Chad.

I’d danced with Brittany, but she’d hardly noticed. She was here with Mario. They were a study in contrasts. Small and large. Cute and, uh, well, Brittany was good looking, in a heffalump sort of way, so I don’t quite know what word to use, but cute wasn’t the one. Short hair and long. Sharply dressed and, well, there’s that problem again. I don’t think a muumuu is exactly sharp.

I’d talked to Mario. When I’d told him she’d be thrilled if he’d ask her to the dance, he’d blushed and looked excited. I hadn’t told him what to expect when it was over. A gentleman never does. But I’d grinned, just thinking about it. I was looking forward to overhearing what these two had to say at lunch on Monday. And being obvious about it.

Chad had danced with three or four girls. OK, he’d danced with four girls. Not that I was keeping track at all.

But after each dance, he’d come back over to where I was. There was that at least.

I’d danced with Brittany and several other girls myself. I knew everyone there so it wasn’t a big deal. I danced a lot of dances. Actually, the reason I did was because all the girls kept coming up to me and asking me to dance. I knew them all, I was sort of friends with them, but as shy as I was, I wasn’t going to ask anyone.

Everyone was happy and excited the school year was ending, and that atmosphere I was talking about was definitely in the air. It was sort of like a mixture of nostalgia and looking forward. Weird. But it made it easier for me to dance with the girls who asked me to.

There didn’t seem to be any feelings of snobbery or popularity in anyone. That in itself was different. I sensed that things were changing, and wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

I went over and stood next to Chad when I was done dancing with a girl named Ashley. Of course, this makes it sound like it was just the two of us. It wasn’t. Wherever Chad chose to stand, a lot of other boys chose to stand, too. So it was never just him and me.

Some of the teachers were there. Miss Feeny was there. I went up and talked to her. She and Mr. Bingely were my favorite teachers. Before it had only been Mr. Bingely. Funny how things change, and how you see things differently as time passes and you learn stuff you didn’t know before.

None of the teachers had to be there. Parents signed up as volunteer chaperones, and the principal was there. The teachers who did come were only there because they wanted to be. Maybe they did feel things, too, some of the things we felt. Maybe we were more than just a job, to some of them.

Chad was dancing again. Number five. Whoever he was dancing with, the two of them looked perfect together. He chose both great looking, pretty girls and plainer ones, but when they were on the floor together, it didn’t matter. Whoever the girl was, she had a smile on her face like it was Christmas and all the presents were just for her. It seemed to me that whenever Chad was on the floor, everyone was watching him. He was smiling a lot at number five.

When the song was over, he headed back towards where I and the rest of the group were, but he walked directly to me.

“You want to maybe get out of here?”

“OK with me.” I wasn’t that much into dancing, really. It was OK, but that was all. I was at the dance mostly because he’d said he was going.

“Let’s go, then.” And without saying anything else to anyone, he sort of casually walked towards the table with the punch and cookies on it, then past it and on out the door. I was walking by his side the whole way.

It was a warm night. The end of May, in Anaheim, it’s usually warm. It was just after 10. There weren’t many people outside. For some reason, walking with him, I didn’t really feel like talking. Just being next to him was enough.

He must have felt the same way, because he didn’t speak either.

We walked towards home, both of our homes. In doing so, we passed the elementary school we’d both attended. We hadn’t been friends, then. I’d known who he was, but that was all. We weren’t ever in the same classes.

He stopped in front of it, and then, for some reason, started across the lawn. I stayed with him. I didn’t even ask why, just walked with him. It felt so good, being with him. I never felt the need to ask why.

He walked to the front of the school, then around back. There was a playground there, actually two of them, one for the real little kids, and one for everyone else. He walked over to the larger kids’ part, and sat down on one of the swings. I sat down on one next to him.

He was quiet for a while, just looking around. Remembering, I guessed. I did that too. Lots of memories here.

“Remember when Gracie Merton got in a fight with Melody Zelinski?” he asked. Of course I did. They were mad about something, even though they were best friends, and they started swinging their fists at each other and pulling hair and screaming, and neither had any idea at all how to fight. It was hilarious watching them. An aide had quickly stopped it, and they’d both started sobbing, and then hugging each other, and just about all the boys had been rolling on the ground, it had been so funny, and all the girls had been furious with us.

“And when Jacob Withers broke his arm?” That was my contribution. Jake had been in my class, but everyone had recess together, putting all of us on the playground at the same time. Jake was one of those hyper kids, and he’d climbed to the top of the monkey bars, then stood up. Of course he slipped when he was flexing his muscles. He only broke his arm. I’d have broken my neck, I was sure. How he didn’t hit his head on any of the bars on the way down nobody could understand. He was in school with a cast and sling for a few weeks, and it didn’t stop him any. He was just as hyper as ever. At the time when he fell, though, it was scary.

Chad pushed off and swung real slowly, back and forth, just sort of hitting the ground with one toe to keep going.

He did that for about five minutes, just swinging gently back and forth. It was warm enough that I was thinking about maybe taking my jacket off. I’d already loosened the tie. I did that first thing when we left the dance. I thought about it, and didn’t speak. Somehow, I could sense Chad’s mood, and didn’t want to interrupt whatever it was he was feeling.

“I have something I have to tell you, Marc.”

It had been quiet for so long, he pulled me out of the place inside me I’d fallen into. I didn’t like his tone of voice. It sounded strained.

“OK?”

“Yeah. What to do you want to tell me?”

He didn’t say anything right away. I was surprised when he said what he did.

“You remember that test we took in math? That one you got just one problem wrong, and were so pissed about?”

“Sure.”

“You never asked me what I got. I was the one that got them all right.”

“You were? And you never told me? And you’re telling me now?”

“Yeah.”

“How come?”

He was quiet again, and when he spoke, I could hear even more tension in his voice.

“This is difficult. But I have to say it. Marc, we haven’t talked about it. But, see, I’m smart. I know you are. You’re real smart. It’s one of the reasons I like you so much. But, I am too. And my parents want me to make the most of that. So, next year, I’m not going to high school with you. Instead, they’re sending me to Madison. They have an accelerated math program.”

I was in shock. I didn’t know what to say. Madison was the magnet high school in town, the one for high achievers. I just looked at him. He wouldn’t look back. He just kept swinging, very slowly, back and forth.

Eventually, since he wasn’t saying anything else, I had to. “You’re not going to high school with me?” My voice was shaking. It didn’t sound like me at all. But then, I wasn’t feeling like me at all either.

“No.”

It was taking time to sink in. He wasn’t going to high school with me. He wouldn’t be there. He’d go somewhere else. He’d make new friends. We wouldn’t have all the things in common any more that we did now. Even if he still wanted to be friends with me, it wouldn’t be the same. And at his school, he’d probably have tons more homework, and he’d probably need his computer fulltime, not sharing mine, so doing it at my house wouldn’t work. The hours might not work either. He’d have to commute, and that would take even more time.

He wouldn’t be there for me at gym. He’d protected me. Now he couldn’t. There might be more Marv Turners in high school, and there wouldn’t be any Chad.

I’d never thought he could return my love, but now he wouldn’t even be there to return my friendship, and I counted on that. That was the most important thing in my life.

I sat there, watching him make a gentle, slow arc, moving back and forth. I couldn’t really see his face, the little light we had was coming from behind him, but that was good because he couldn’t see mine, either. And I was crying now. Not weeping, but my eyes were full of tears, and they were running down my face, and then I couldn’t see him at all any more, just a blur.

I was losing him, and I’d never even got up the nerve to tell him I was gay. It was too late now. It didn’t mean anything anymore. It didn’t matter, because I was losing him. He was my whole life, and I was losing him.

Thirteen-year-old boys don’t cry, and if they do, they can’t let any other 13-year-old boys see them. Those are the rules, and they are hard and fast and known by all 13-year-old boys. They’re part of our souls.

I didn’t care. He’d already seen me cry once, in my room, and now I was doing it again. I couldn’t stop, and I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything. My life was over.

I stood up and started walking home. In the direction home was supposed to be. I wasn’t sure because I couldn’t see anything. But I couldn’t stay there.

I’d only gone a few steps when Chad was there with me. He could tell I was crying. He didn’t say anything about it. He just slipped his arm around me and guided me. Just like he’d been doing all year. Seeing I was safe, taking care of me.

He walked me home. Neither of us spoke. Maybe he was feeling bad, too, I didn’t know. I could only feel my own pain. I didn’t have enough room in me to see if he was feeling some, too.

He walked me up to the door and made sure I was inside. Then I guess he walked home. I only know I went up to my room and took off my jacket and threw it as hard as I could against the wall and fell on my bed and cried myself to sleep.